Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Difference Between Nightmares and Night Terrors

I had terrible dreams when I was little. I dreamed a family of alligators lived in the bathroom cupboard (which made going to the bathroom in the middle of the night terrifying). I dreamed a family of lions lived in the bathroom, too. I believed that if I left the light off, they wouldn't wake up. Once day, my grandma was visiting and walked in on me in a dark bathroom. Try explaining that without looking crazy! Also, big tarantula's would drop down on my face from a web strung from the upper bunk of the bed. And a magic black cat materialized in a brown paper bag and stalk out to. . . Well, I don't know what it was going to do. I just woke up terrified. And I didn't feel right about the sound of crumpling paper for a long time.

Science Mom has twin sons. Even though they are identical, one has nightmares, the other has night terrors. Basically, the child wakes up during a nightmare and often can remember it in the morning (in my case, 30+ years of mornings later). Night terrors usually occur within 90 minutes of falling asleep. The child screams and sweats and appears extremely distressed, but doesn't wake up during the episode, and doesn't remember it in the morning.

I didn't have night terrors, but I think that might have been preferable. With nightmares, parents should comfort the child to help reduce future nightmares. With night terrors, comfort yourself by trying to comfort the child, even though they won't even know you are there.